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Grading MLB’s Biggest Offseason Moves At The Season’s Midway Point

With the MLB season reaching the All-Star break, it presents a time to look back and grade how game-changing deals made in the offseason have turned out so far.

Some look to be steals, while others long to perhaps cripple a franchise more than aid them over the next several years. Which players live up to the hype? Let’s find out.

Mets sign Max Scherzer to three years, $130 million

New York made waves by nabbing Scherzer to a $130 million deal while adding to an extremely impressive rotation that also features Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom.

So far, that contract has shown two extremes. The first is Scherzer’s potential. He’s gone 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA and 2.6 WAR in 11 games, being the ace expected of him.

The second is the potential risks. Scherzer missed nearly seven weeks with an oblique strain, and at 37, injuries could only become more frequent. As long as he can stay healthy, however, this is a win for the Mets.

Grade: B+

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Phillies sign Kyle Schwarber to four years, $79 million

Kyle Schwarber wasn’t even the Phillies’ biggest offseason signing (that honor belongs to Nick Castellanos). However, the move has paid huge dividends, and might even be what saves Philadelphia’s season. Thus far into 2022, Schwarber is first in the National League (and second in MLB) in home runs with 29.

Obviously, there are some areas of concern with Schwarber. He’s hitting .208 and has 120 strikeouts, putting him on pace for a career season-high. Production in scoring opportunities is also alarming: Schwarber’s hitting .215 with RISP, and .198 with men on base.

Still, Schwarber pulling the weight after 2021 NL MVP Bryce Harper went down with a thumb injury has been critical to the Phillies’ playoff push, and any hope of securing a division title or wildcard no doubt rests with him.

Grade: B

Astros sign Justin Verlander to two years, $50 million

After missing all but one game in 2020 and all of 2021, no one exactly knew what to expect of the 39-year-old Verlander. It showed with the New York Yankees, who offered Verlander $25 million but on a one-year deal.

The Astros were smart enough to offer Verlander the same deal, but with a 2023 player option at $25 million. What a decision that’s turned out to be. Verlander currently leads the American League in wins with 12, which goes nicely with a dazzling 1.89 ERA, 0.878 WHIP, and 108 strikeouts over 109.1 innings.

Verlander’s deal was certainly a high-risk, high-reward situation for Houston, and they put their faith in the nine-time All-Star to reward them for it. He delivered, making this probably the best signing of the offseason.

Grade: A+

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Rockies sign Kris Bryant to seven years, $182 million

Colorado shocked the baseball world by signing Kris Bryant to a seven-year deal at a value of $26 million per year. When he’s played, Bryant’s produced like many thought he would. Through 33 games, he’s batting .302/.366/.460 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.

Unfortunately, everything that made the signing originally bizarre still remains. Why didn’t the Rockies just keep Nolan Arenado, which actually would have been cheaper in the long run? Why didn’t they use that money to try and fill in multiple holes? Why even spend if you’re trying to save?

Due to Bryant’s unlucky back injury, the Rockies’ big splash has equaled a 43-50 record, good for fourth in the NL West. Unless Colorado’s pitching staff or protection around Bryant suddenly shapes up, that’s perhaps all they’ll ever see during the former MVP’s tenure there.

Grade: D

Rangers sign Corey Seager to 10 years, $325 million

Seager’s first season of his mega-contract has been a mixed bag. His slugging numbers are great: he’s at 22 home runs and 52 RBIs through 88 games. That would be him on pace for around 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, both would-be career-highs.

But his batting average is lacking. .251 for a career .291 hitter is unacceptable given the circumstances. Defense is also a negative, with Seager putting up 11 errors and a -7 Rtot through 746.1 innings fielded.

Still, given Seager’s resume, expect him to bring his batting totals back up to speed sooner than later.

Grade: C+

Baseball Glove

Major League Baseball Hit With Sign Stealing Scandal

A recent report has exploded in Major League Baseball with accusations that the Houston Astros have been involved in a cheating scandal. Claims have been made that the team were stealing signs during the 2017 World Series, helping them in their winning campaign. The shocking allegations have accused Astros pitcher Mike Fiers as one of four players illegally stealing signs.

An issue that has dogged the history of the MLB, sign stealing occurs when a player, usually on second base, decodes and relays the catcher’s signal that has been made to the batter. Although the act is regarded unfavorably among the sport, using the electronic equipment has now made it an illegal act, meaning the Astros could face severe penalties if found guilty of the claims.

The reported allegations make it clear they believe the sign stealing was pivotal in the Astros 2017 World Series win, while many other publications have reported it is still an ongoing activity.

As well as the Astros, New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran and Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora have also had allegations made against them, with claims they may have played key roles in devising the campaign when they were still working with Astros manager AJ Hinch – Beltran was a player while Cora was the bench coach at the time.

The alleged sign stealing occurred not only during the 2017 season but also throughout the playoffs, appearing to be a reason the team were so successful at home.

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Although the Astros had declined to comment before the story was published they released the following statement shortly afterwards:

‘Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organisation has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time.’

It is claimed the Astros had set a camera up in center field, which was positioned on the opposing catcher’s signs. This was then shown on a TV monitor in the home dugout where they appeared to share the information through a rhythm of bangs on a garbage can. It is also believed that Jomboy Media’s Jimmy O’Brien has acquired examples of the sign stealing as it happened. When leaving the Astros, Fiers had informed his new teams – the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s – of what had happened.

Fiers made the following announcement:

“I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing. Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s bulls*** on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit (in 2018) trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared’.”

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This is not the first time a sign stealing scandal was investigated. Also in 2017 the Red Sox received an undisclosed fine after they were found to be using Apple Watches to steal signals in a game against the New York Yankees, and the Yankees were also fined due to ‘improper usage of a dugout phone’.

At the time, Commissioner Rob Manfred was reported as saying that ‘future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.’

Although many have called for the Astros to concede their World Series win this is a prospect that will not likely happen and instead they will most likely pick up a penalty fine or lose draft picks.

But the issue of cheating has understandably enraged the league and has clearly harmed not only the team but the sport’s reputation as a whole.
At this week’s general managers’ meeting in Arizona Brian Cashman declined to comment specifically on the allegations, however the Yankees boss did say he felt teams should deal with the ‘consequences’ if they cheat.

“You decide to play by the rules, or you don’t. And if you don’t, there’s consequences. You’re putting yourself at risk whether it’s future employment, current employment, or sanctions or what have you. It’s not a technology question as much as how you want to operate.”

The LA Dodgers, the team the Astros beat in the 2017 World Series, have refused to comment directly on the allegations with Dodgers president Andrew Friedman saying:

‘There was scuttlebutt about it being beyond just the things at home. I don’t know the answer. This is more for Major League Baseball than it is for me. From our standpoint, being one of the teams involved, it sounds like sour grapes for us to comment too much on this.